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Research Infrastructure for Science, Technology and Innovation Studies: The Experience of the RISIS

European Union
Integration
Policy Analysis
Knowledge
Methods
Quantitative
Competence
Mixed Methods
Emanuela Reale
National Research Council-IRCRES-Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth
Emanuela Reale
National Research Council-IRCRES-Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth

Abstract

The paper discusses changes produced by the emergence of research infrastructures at European level, which affect the modes of knowledge production and the role of research organizations. The paper is based on evidences derived from the work done in the last five years in one Research infrastructure - RISIS, dealing with studies on Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STI) funded under the EUFP7. RISIS was recently admitted to the second round of advanced communities under the Horizon 2020 call INFRAIA, which is supposed to end into the Road Map of ESFRI. The nature of the RISIS research infrastructure is linked to the main features of the field of STI policy studies, namely: a) STI studies have an interdisciplinary focus, mixing economics, political science, sociology and management in a way that it is difficult to identify one disciplinary sector where the scientific results can be classified. b) STI investigations are strongly characterized by a quantitative approach, since they gained a momentum in the sixties, with the emergence of science policy studies at the OECD level and the building of the Frascati Manual defining international standard for accounting at national level for R&D investment (both expenditures and personnel). c) STI studies are from the very beginning supposed to feed up public policies with evidences that can support public investment in the field, providing indications about the best solutions and instruments. Thus, a strong orientation toward producing knowledge that can have a political impact is largely shared among scholars, and it goes with the need to maintain a sound theoretical apparatus and originality. On the other hand, policy makers at European level want to reinforce the capability scholars to produce innovative results through joint efforts. The mentioned characteristics explain why indicators have been one critical dimension of field activities. Beside the development of specific data collection and databases handled by statistical offices at national and international level (so-called official statistics), scholars produced over time several important results using new datasets targeted to analyze different topics. However, a significant fragmentation of this disperse effort impeded to deepen important research questions related to: a) the role performed by the actors involved in the knowledge production and funding, b) the geography of knowledge production, c) the networking of organizations within Europe and beyond. The work developed within RISIS produced several effects in the collaboration patterns of involved individuals and organizations belonging to the field; it also captured the attention of researchers beyond the STI field, with some contamination effects as to methodologies and approaches used for building STI indicators. Signals of changes are also visible in the positioning of the actors involved – namely research organizations and research funding organizations, as far as the relationship with the state is concerned. Furthermore, the tendency toward the professionalization of data and indicator production and the emergence of platforms for data sharing as main tools of knowledge production are also visible.